A Church of England clergyman has held a wedding-like service for two homosexual men in one of London’s finest Anglican churches.
The rector of St Bartholomew the Great, the Revd Martin Dudley, held the service for the men who are also fellow members of the clergy, Revd Peter Cowell and Revd David Lord.
The service closely followed a real marriage service, using words from the Prayer Book with an exchange of vows and rings, but has no legal status.
As part of the service each man was asked, “Wilt thou take this man as thy partner, in the sight of God?”
Responding to protests from traditionalists, Revd Dudley said it was not a wedding but a blessing for a civil partnership. “It seems to me that Jesus would have been sitting in the congregation,” he said.
The service took place last month in front of hundreds of guests but no one informed the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, who has ordered an inquiry.
The Bishop said: “Services of public blessings for civil partnerships are not authorised in the Church of England or the Diocese of London. I will be asking the Archdeacon of London to investigate what took place.”
This is not the first time Revd Dudley has performed a controversial ceremony. Four years ago the rector, who is married with two children, conducted the wedding of Penny Cadle, a woman with whom he had an affair when she was still married to her first husband.
Traditional Anglicans want to see action taken over this latest incident. Revd David Banting said: “It is very difficult to exercise discipline in the Church of England because things have gone such a long way down this sort of track. But yes, I would expect there to be consequences.”
The controversial ceremony comes just a month before the Lambeth Conference, a gathering of Anglican leaders which only occurs every 10 years. Canon Chris Sugden of conservative breakaway group, Gafcon, said: “The timing appears deliberate.”
The Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Revd Henry Orombi, said: “The leadership tried to deny that this would happen, but now the truth is out. Our respect for the Church of England will erode unless we see a return to traditional teaching.”